Meet Marc: Jewish Skydiver of the Week!

He’s jumped out of 200 planes, makes bagels from scratch, is a fencing coach, avid hiker, handyman, and nailed the best surprise proposal ever. Oh, and this is all outside of his full-time government job. Yes, this is a real human and not a Westworld robot.

Meet Marc Meyer!

marc

Allie: How did you wind up in DC?

Marc: I grew up just north of Chicago. I went to school in Seattle, then worked for the Seahawks doing field security, and then went to Georgetown and studied security studies for my masters. I focused on non-Jihadist extremism in the U.S.: hate-speech, KKK, militia movements, left-wing anarchists, and others. After school I started working for the GAO (Government Accountability Office) and met my fiancé there!

Allie: What led you to study non-Jihadist extremism?

Marc: In undergrad I majored in law, societies and justice where we explored how law interacts with people. Part of that was an internship at the U.S. Marshals Service in judicial security and intelligence. I got more involved with learning about far alt-right extremism. As a Jew, a Freemason, and coming from a family of federal employees; this was something I felt like I needed to do to give back to the communities I am a part of.

Allie: Does studying this make you more or less afraid for our country?

Marc: I think a healthy enough worry to be conscious is necessary, but to overwhelm yourself with fear is to give them credit they don’t deserve. Give them enough seriousness to stamp them down, but not enough to give them power. A lot of people are just keyboard warriors.

Allie: What can we do on an individual level to help combat extremism and hate?

Marc: I’m all about Jews being in places where you wouldn’t expect them to be: whether that’s farming, the military, construction, or law-enforcement. It’s important for Jewish people to get out into the community in unconventional spaces to help other groups recognize that we are no different from themselves or any other people.

Allie: Alright, on to lighter topics…I notice that you’re wearing a bow-tie, tell me about that.

Marc: I wear a bow-tie almost every day to work. It’s an identifier that is a way for me to connect with people. They’re fun and help to put people at ease. I see it as an approachability thing and a way for me to express my personality.

marc

Allie: What is your favorite bow-tie?

Marc: A burnt-orange bow tie that is the first one I bought with my fiancé when we were on a road-trip down in South Carolina. It was a time when I was owning who I was and that means a lot to me. Another one that I enjoy wearing  is a wooden one that has the skyline of Chicago etched into it.

Allie: Describe your dream day in the DMV.

Marc: I’d start the morning hiking Old Rag. That’s actually where I proposed to my fiancé, at the peak.

Allie: Please tell this proposal story.

Marc: We were planning to hike Old Rag with a friend, and I told her I was refereeing a fencing tournament that day because I also help coach the Georgetown fencing team. I actually went with one of my best friends and hiked Old Rag at the crack of dawn so I could be up there when she got there. When she got to the top, I proposed. She was totally surprised.

marc

Allie: Alright, now continue with your perfect day.

Marc: Okay, so after Old Rag, I’d get some BBQ. I’m a huge fan of BBQ shacks at the side of the road. In terms of established places, Monks, BBQ Exchange, District BBQ are all really good. After I’d get back to the city, I’ll go to a museum. One of my favorites is The National Portrait Gallery – which combines history and art and shows what makes America unique. At night, I’d bike the monuments.

Allie: I hear that you volunteer at Yachad, how did you get

Marc: I’ve been volunteering with Yachad for about a year and a half now. They’re like Habitat for Humanity but instead of building new homes, they repair and preserve affordable homes. We make sure everything is up to code. A lot of times we work on multi-generational households that have people with limited incomes living there and the house hasn’t been so well maintained  and as part of our projects, we teach and empower homeowners to do more of the continuing maintenance themselves. I’m part of the Handymensch program which is a group of semi-skilled workers who go out a couple times quarterly to tackle vital home repairs. As part of that, I get to learn skills and help others at the same time. Everyone wins. If you’re interested, you can sign up to volunteer here.

Allie: What’s your favorite way to relax at the end of a long work week?

Marc: I’m a hobby baker. I love to bake things and going through the whole process and then having something at the end that you can give to people and spread happiness. I’ve learned how to make my own bagels that I think are pretty good.

Allie: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Marc: I used to be a competitive sky-diver. I’ve done over 200 sky-dives. It’s the closest to nirvana I’ve ever felt. When you go up, you feel so nervous, and when you jump you have that moment of overwhelming fear. But, once you realize you’re “floating“, you realize everything is okay. Then you open the canopy, you can relax and enjoy. Everyone should do it once.

Allie: Complete the sentence. When Jews of DC Gather…

Marc: It feels a little more like home.

marc

 


 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Stephanie: Radical Jewish Rabbi of the Week!

Think you know what a rabbi does with their free time? Think again. Stephanie Crawley is a turtle-owner, Queer Eye fan, Purim hater, and Temple Micah’s new(ish) rabbi!

Meet this radical rabbi taking DC by storm.

stephanie

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC as a rabbi?

Stephanie: I knew I wanted to be a rabbi since I was maybe 12 years old. I also knew that I didn’t want to go straight from college to rabbinical school. After graduating from undergrad in Cleveland, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in that time period before rabbinical school, and decided to move to DC and do Jewish work. I wound up working at Temple Micah.

I really loved, and love, how Temple Micah is a place that challenges itself to think differently about what Judaism can look like. Its full of people who are simultaneously brilliant and super humble, and are all very invested in their Jewish life.

After working at Temple Micah for three years, I left to go to rabbinical school. When I was leaving, I worried that I would never find another synagogue that I love as much as I love Temple Micah. But, miraculously, in my fifth year of rabbinical school the Assistant Rabbi position at Temple Micah opened up and I was able to find my way back there.

Allie: Hold on, you wanted to be a rabbi from the time you were 12?!

Stephanie: When I was younger, I knew I liked the idea of doing social work, I liked acting, public speaking, and social justice. A rabbi seemed like it combined all of those things. I knew that becoming a rabbi was the only thing I wanted to do in the world.

Allie: What do you enjoy most about being a rabbi?

Stephanie: I think Judaism gives us such a good answer for how to live our lives with meaning. Particularly right now, it feels like Judaism is everything I need. Judaism reminds me that when it feels like everything is go-go-go, Judaism says stop. When I feel like I’m prioritizing the new, Judaism reminds that what is ancient has real validity. Bringing that countercultural voice to people is something that I really enjoy.

stephanie

Allie: What has been the most meaningful experience you’ve had as a rabbi thus far?

Stephanie: I used to work in a Jewish addiction and rehab facility called Beit T’Shuvah. While I was there I really saw Judaism save lives. From that, I’ve thought a lot about what we want to save and reclaim in all of our lives, and how can Judaism help with that.

Allie: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Stephanie: There’s so much that I want to do, and learning what my capacity is has been a journey. Also, to be really frank, holding half an hour conversations with 12 year-olds.

Allie: As a rabbi, how do you cope with the rising threat of anti-Semitism we are feeling right now in America?

Stephanie: I do feel a real sense of purpose to figure out how and when to appropriately call out anti-Semitism without alienating Jews. You can’t just publish an op-ed every time there’s anti-Semitism, sometimes you really have to sit with the person who is saying these [anti-Semitic] things and talk to them.

There is a Jewish philosopher Simon Rawidowicz who has an essay called “The Ever Dying People” and I like to keep in mind that every generation has thought they were the last generation of Jews, and they’re not.

Allie: On to lighter things. What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Stephanie: It’s not Purim. I loathe Purim. One Rabbi once said to me you’re either a Yom Kippur Rabbi or a Purim rabbi. I’m definitely a Yom Kippur rabbi. I like this little bubble we create to focus on our community on Yom Kippur, and the catharsis that comes when we’ve done the whole thing together. I think the metaphors are really powerful, and appreciate the concept of t’shuvah (repentance).

I also love Passover. I like that the meal is such a good way of teaching Judaism and encourages children to ask questions. I like that women play an important role in the narrative, and that its one of the Jewish rituals that we’ve found a way to modernize and speak for different movements.

rabbi stephanie

Allie: What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?

Stephanie: I have a pet turtle who, for a long time, we thought was a girl turtle named Slowla. We recently found out the turtle is a boy and his new name is Mr. Slow. I think of turtles as puppies with armor.

Allie: What are your favorite ways to relax when you’re not at work?

Stephanie: Normal Netflix and chill, or right now Queer Eye and cry is my new hobby. I also love running and yoga, guitar, singing, and reading.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Stephanie: We make our city stronger, and highlight the beauty of the diversity of the Jewish world.

stephanie

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site

So how about those New Year’s resolutions?

In 2019, I didn’t create “resolutions,” but more themes or intentions for the year.

I wanted to create more joy, meaning, and connection to others throughout the year – and so far it’s been pretty great! I’ve started by just making more time for the things that bring me joy, like playing basketball, watching great TV, traveling to new places, and eating delicious food. I’ve pushed myself to also identify more meaning and purpose in my life through journaling, reflection, and constantly reading. And I’ve been really intentional about reaching out to old and new friends to expand and deepen my relationships with folks.

But, as with most goals or resolutions, I’ve started to feel myself stray a little bit from my intentions for 2019. This last month, I was traveling a ton for work and felt like I wasn’t as focused on what I wanted this year to be for me. Some days, it just felt like life was happening and I wasn’t getting the full amount of joy, meaning, and connection I wanted for 2019.

journal

Checking in on my 2019 intentions

So, I’m using the month of April to check in with myself. Not only is it my birthday month (April 2nd!) but it’s also one of my favorite Jewish holidays: Passover. This holiday is all about the Israelites going on a journey toward freedom and redemption, escaping slavery to experience the land flowing with milk and honey. Our story of going from an oppressed community to a redeemed nation includes a ton of joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community – just like the intentions I set for myself in 2019. Our freedom story provides us with several different insights on how each and every one of us can experience more freedom and a better life each and every day.

Rediscovering joy

Just like my first intention for 2019, the first lesson from our Passover story is all about joy. Although it begins with anguish and pain, by the time our people cross the Red Sea we are totally and completely ready to celebrate our freedom. With Miriam leading the Israelites in song and dance, we expressed a lifetime of joy after that tremendous moment.

But you don’t have to wait for all the big moments in life to celebrate. Whether it’s trying a new restaurant, sleeping in a little longer on the weekend, or just pausing to really appreciate the cherry blossoms, each and every day represents an opportunity to experience joy in our lives.

Finding meaning in our lives

My second intention for 2019, and the second lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is all about finding meaning in our lives. Understanding our purpose in life is one of those deep, existential questions that is really tough to figure out, and I’m not saying that you need to tackle that question to truly find meaning in your life. But the Passover story provides us with a great starting place to think about the big questions of the world. A core component of the Passover seder is the reading of the Four Questions.

Here are some adapted questions to help think about how you might create more meaningful moments:

  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What brings you pure joy?
  • How are you going to make a difference in someone else’s life today?
  • What do you believe is possible in your life?

Connecting with community

My final intention for 2019, and the last lesson we can draw from our Passover story, is that community is essential to success. Although there may have been bickering amongst the Israelites when escaping and definitely while they were in the desert, staying together as a community was necessary for their survival. And for us in 2019, community is necessary for our survival. We are naturally wired to be around other people and it’s even more important when you’re wanting to make a change, big or small, in your life. One of my goals for this year was to be more connected with the people in my life because I know that it will make me happier and bring more meaning into my life.

Among all of the ways that society, other people, and even ourselves sometimes keeps us from fulfilling our true potential, there is always the opportunity for more freedom in our own lives. And if we focus on the lessons from our Passover story, we can seek out more joy, meaningful moments, and a strong community to be on this journey with us.

Passover resolution check-in

If you set resolutions or goals or themes for 2019…

  • How are you doing on them?
  • Would you change them at all?
  • What do you need to do in order to adjust?

If you didn’t set any goals for 2019, now’s the time to start.

  • What’s one thing you want to do for the rest of 2019 to make yourself more free this year?

As we celebrate Passover, may we use this time to check-in with ourselves, to connect with those in our communities, and to commit to freeing ourselves so that we may be our best selves.

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evanAbout the Author: Evan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, currently works at the Union for Reform Judaism and is an aspiring rabbi. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 2016 studying political science and Jewish studies. Evan loves reading, traveling, exploring DC, and cheering on the KU Jayhawks.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Rabbi Rant: On Inner Freedom

rabbi rant

Passover commemorates the ancient Israelites’ exodus from slavery to freedom. The rabbis refer to Passover as “the time of our freedom.” And in our prayers we refer to Passover as “chag hacheirut” – the holiday of freedom.

So if we’re going to try to connect to Passover in a meaningful way, we should probably talk a bit about freedom.

But, I find that most Passover-related conversations about freedom tend to be either philosophical or historical, both of which, frankly, sound irrelevant and boring.

I get very bored by pseudo-philosophical conversations where people pontificate about the meaning of a grand, abstract word. All it takes is for someone to ask “What is (insert: freedom, truth, love, etc.)?” and I’m asking “Where is the exit?” Ironically, I would like to utilize my freedom to avoid talking about the nature of freedom.

I also get bored by history. I know, I know – if we don’t learn from our history we’re doomed to repeat it. (Which is also ironic because I had to repeat my 9th grade history class.*) But when it comes to the Passover story, talking about how my ancient ancestors were freed from slavery feels disconnected from my life and the world around me.

The rabbis anticipated this problem and mandated: “In every generation a person must see themselves as though they had gone out of Egypt.” (Mishna Pesachim 10:5). This is the foundational idea behind the concept of the seder, where we are meant to keep our history alive by reenacting it. Still, keeping history alive by resuscitating it every year feels more like a burden than the choice of a free person.

Lucky for me, and anyone else looking for a more meaningful connection to the holiday, the chassidic rabbis of the 18th and 19th century turned the Passover story inward. They related to the story less historically and more metaphorically, and they related to the idea of freedom less abstractly and more personally. For them, “Egypt” (mitzrayim) is a metaphor for the confining/restricting (meitzar) aspects of our lives. As the Gerrer Rebbe writes:

“The truth is that in every generation there is an ‘Egypt’ for every Jew.” ~Sefat Emet, Exodus, p. 51

By turning Passover inward, these rabbis allowed us to relate to the theme of freedom in a much more personal way. If freedom requires leaving our own “Egypt,” then this holiday becomes a time to confront the question: “What is your Egypt?” i.e. “What prevents you from being who you want to be?”

To be truly free, we must free ourselves from the constraints that hold us back. Those constraints might be thought patterns, behaviors, or actual people in our lives. Passover is a time to take a step forward on our spiritual journey, away from our “Egypt(s)” and towards redemption.

 

*False, but funny?

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Washington DC-Ya! (A goodbye message from Rachel Nieves)

As many of you already know, my time in the nation’s capital is coming to a close.

As a native Bostonian, I’ve decided to return to the town of beans and 800 national sports championships (before you get mad and angry whisper in your head, “Tom Brady sucks!” – I’m not trying to brag, I don’t care about sports and the number 800 is a loose guess and I know it is nowhere close to accurate).

What a whirlwind the last three years living in this city has been! I’ve had two dope jobs, met probably a thousand people, and made countless new friends. For those who know me personally, you know my favorite thing to do is talk and my second favorite thing to do is laugh. I’ve been extremely lucky that the job I’ve had the past year and a half inherently allowed me to integrate the two. It’s a privilege to be able to describe what you do and have people respond with, “that sounds like the perfect job for you.”

It may seem contradictory for me to describe this as the perfect job for me right as I’m about to leave, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how much FUN (!!!) I had doing this job and working for this organization. While I won’t be continuing my role with Gather and I’m moving to a new city hundreds of miles up the coast, there’s no doubt I’ll be bringing with me everything I’ve gained from this city (lessons, friendships, memories, strong feelings about paper straws, expectations of bottomless brunch, Metro escalator etiquette, etc.).

While I’m super duper hyped to be heading back to my hometown and have a fresh start, change freaks me out and it will definitely be bittersweet leaving the city I’ve spent three years building a life in. Like, how will I make friends as an adult when it’s not my job to make friends as an adult? Are you there, Gather? It’s me, Rachel.

Now that this is getting existential, I’m going to wrap this up with a resounding THANK YOU (picture me yelling and doing jazz hands) to Jewish DC, the people I’ve met, the pals I’ve made, and my people at Gather. You’re all extraordinary and I’m so grateful I had the chance to learn and grow with you.

If you’re ever in Boston – holla at me and we can get some beans (ground or otherwise). Love and miss you already DC!

Xoxo Rachel Elizabeth Nieves aka REN <3

P.S. Wish REN a final farewell at racheln@gatherdc.org.

P.P.S. You can apply for REN’s Community Coordinator position here!

rachel nieves

Want to work for GatherDC?

were hiring

Attention Jewish DC: It’s time to dust off your resumes for the chance to work with the coolest team of frolleagues (that’s friends/colleagues) around.

GatherDC Community Coordinator

First, our Community Coordinator position is open. We’re pretty sad to have recently said goodbye to Rachel Nieves, our all-star Community Coordinator who may have treated you to a Gregory’s Coffee or partied with you at a Gather happy hour this past year. You can read more about that here. If you or someone you know is an outgoing, friendly soul with a passion for Jewish community building, run – do not walk – to this job listing.

Apply for the Community Coordinator role now.

GatherDC Community Engagement Director: Jewish 30s

This is a BRAND NEW position. *pause for applause* Could you be the tenacious, enthusiastic people-person to transform Jewish life for 30s across the DMV? Send us your resume & cover letter for a chance to become Gather’s first-ever Community Engagement Director for Jewish 30s to connect hundreds of 30-somethings across the DC-area to one another, to Jewish opportunities, and to a meaningful adult Jewish identity.

Apply for the Jewish 30s Community Engagement Director role now.

GatherDC Community Coordinator: Northern Virginia

Another new role on the Gather team is a Community Coordinator for Northern Virginia (NoVA) Jewish life. This is a people-facing, innovative, and very fun role for someone who is a friendly, energetic human with a passion for building Jewish community. Will you be Gather’s OG in the NoVA?

Apply for the Jewish NoVA Community Coordinator role now. 

GatherDC Summer Intern

Next up, we’re on the lookout for an intern (maybe two, we’re open) to help us hold down the fort this summer. If you know an awesome college student who wants to elevate our social media game, meet some fantastic new friends, and dive head first into Jewish DC life – tell them to send in their resume & cover letter!

Apply now to become a GatherDC Summer Intern.

 

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For any and all job application related questions, email info@gatherdc.org.

 

A Camp Love Story by Roey Kruvi

This is a sponsored blog post. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

camp nnn

My love story starts with an anonymous Post-it Note.

“Would you go to the camp dance with me? Yes, No, Maybe.”

I paced by her room, nervously twirling the square neon paper in my hand. Sliding the note under her door, I ran down the hall to avoid being seen. My sticky note was anonymous. If it was meant to be, she would know who it’s from.

post it

It was the first night of Camp Nai Nai Nai, a Jewish summer camp for adults. More than 125 ‘campers’ in their 20s and 30s were asleep in their bunks ready for a weekend filled with nostalgia, joy, self-exploration, and for her and I – an entirely unexpected love story.

Camp Nai Nai Nai is an incredible place where you can be yourself, explore new creative outlets, get locked in a camp-themed escape room, dance, play soccer in a giant bubble, or compete in a game of human hungry hippos. You can be in a sea of white for Shabbat and in a huddled drum circle with hundreds of new friends singing Havdallah. It’s a place where you can explore your Jewish identity in a creative, playful, and adventurous community.

And, turns out that being in this kind of space makes us more attractive to potential partners! The Washington Post reports, “researchers at Pennsylvania State University asked 250 students to rate 16 characteristics that they might look for in a long-term mate. ‘Sense of humor’ came in first among the males and second among the females, ‘fun-loving’ came in third for both, and being ‘playful’ placed fourth for women and fifth for men.”

I love camp because I love to play. I believe it is an essential part of who I am and I love to share that with others. I believe that our Jewish community (and those who love us) can be transformed by the power of playfulness, creative expression, and authenticity – and you can find it at camp.

She came to camp for the flash mobs; I came for the glow in the dark laser tag.

We met somewhere in the middle. Nearly two years and three Camp Nai Nai Nais later – we’re still together – and Camp will forever be our special place. I invite you to come make it yours.

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camp nnn

About Camp Nai Nai Nai

Camp Nai Nai Nai is the ultimate Jewish summer camp for young adults in their 20s and 30s! A radical experiment in Jewish community-building – where what you do for a living doesn’t define you, everyone is welcome, and spontaneous adventures await. Join us for bonfires, bubble soccer, yoga, aerial skills, epic dance parties and more! Camp is a “choose your own adventure” experience, so whether you’re outgoing, shy, geeky, artsy, sporty, creative, spiritual, all of the above, or none of the above, there’s something for everyone.

Camp Nai Nai Nai – East Coast

Memorial Day Weekend
Friday – Monday, May 24-27, 2019
Waynesboro, PA (1.5 hours from DC)

Early bird registration is almost over!

Save $30 when you register before April 10th at 11:59PM. Grab your friends and sign up as a group of 4+ people and you’ll save an additional $25 off per person at checkout. Hurry, space is limited!

Check out photos from last year on our Facebook page and Like us for updates!

Meet Josh: Jewish Wikipedia Editor of the Week

When he’s not working at innovative digital art space ARTECHOUSE, creating DC-themed pins, or eating avocado BLT bagels, you might find Josh hanging out with his sister who may or may not have invented the flat iron. You’ll just have to find out…

josh

Allie: What brought you to our great nation’s capital?

Josh: I grew up in Rockville and have basically spent much of my life in the DC area. I spent four years in Hartford for undergraduate before I wound up back in DC. Coming back to DC was kind of a scheme planned by my friend Marc Friend [Editor’s note: Yes, that’s his real last name!].

Allie: How did you wind up working at ARTECHOUSE?

Josh: I took my wife to an ARTECHOUSE exhibit last year for her birthday and fell in love with it. I just started working there last August. It’s a very cool space that bridges the gap between art and science technology through immersive installations. We’re doing a cherry blossom exhibit right now. I can give GatherDC readers a discount on tickets! [Editor’s note: He’s not lying! Use code GatherDC for 10% off from 4/8-4/14, excluding Saturdays. Max 2 tickets per household.]

artechouse

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC.

Josh: I’d wake up and get a Bethesda Bagel, an avocado BLT on a salted bagel. I know it’s not kosher. Then, I’d go to the farmer’s market and one of the record stores in the area. Then, I’d grab lunch. I’m a big fan of BIBIBOP in Dupont. I’m also a big fan of board games or having Netflix marathons with friends. In the evening, I’d grab at a cocktail at El Techo in Shaw.

Allie: I also hear you are lowkey a famous Wikipedia editor. Tell me about that.

Josh: Okay, so when my sister was in high school she was trying to cite Wikipedia for a paper. I was trying to show her that Wikipedia was not a credible source. To prove this point, I purposely edited the Wikipedia page about the flat iron and listed her as the inventor.

Today, it is an international conspiracy that my sister, Erica Feldman, invented the flat iron in the 1800s. If you Google “who invented the flat iron?”, her name will come up. She has been listed as the inventor of the flat iron by Conair, in books, tons of websites, and weird magazines even have odd conspiracy theories about it.

Allie: Are there any other strange facts people might be surprised to know about you?

Josh: I was partially responsible for changing the birthday song at Buca di Beppo. I went to school for art’s management, where a huge piece of my education was learning copyright law. I had just written a paper about the copyrights surrounding the Happy Birthday song when my family and I went to celebrate my dad’s birthday at Buca di Beppo. At the end of the meal, the waiters came over and sang the “Happy Birthday” song to us. Since I had just written this paper, I decided to go up to the manager and tell him that he should know they shouldn’t be singing that song. Flash forward to a week later, I was in touch with the Buca di Beppo corporate lawyer and I sent them proof and evidence about it. I didn’t hear anything back, but then a few weeks later I saw this YouTube campaign came out about Buca di Beppo’s new birthday song.

Allie: What are you favorite hobbies outside of copyright law and Wikipedia editing?

Josh: I collect pins, I think it’s a fun way to show a piece of your personality. I actually co-own a pin company with my wife and two of our friends called Federal Pins. It’s all DC-influenced things that a local would connect to. 

josh

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish food?

Josh: Latkes with applesauce. I don’t like sour cream.

Allie: What’s a piece of wisdom that inspires you?

Josh: My grandfather always taught me to soak it up and never take anything for granted.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Josh: Hilarity ensues.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Hebrew, Hindi, and a L’Chaim with Whiskey: A Look Inside Jewish India

Visiting India has been my dream for as long as I can remember. I always imagined posing in front of the Taj Mahal, decorating my hands and forearms with henna, and indulging in all the Indian delights from authentic chai to fresh mango lassis.

Last month that dream had come true, and while it included these touristy activities, my journey could not have been planned using a Lonely Planet guidebook. It was a unique kind of trip, one that exceeded any expectation for my first visit to this beautiful country. That’s because it was led by JDC Entwine, organized with elements of Judaism in mind.

jdc india

JDC Entwine is the young adult engagement initiative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish humanitarian group. JDC Entwine hosts trips all around the globe to connect Jewish communities from around the world, with a focus on global responsibility. Inside India, JDC Entwine’s one-week program based in Mumbai, focused on meeting local residents of the Bene Israel community and seeing how JDC is making a positive impact with their local NGO partner, Gabriel Project Mumbai, which improves the lives of women and children in slums and rural villages.

When I told people I was going on a trip to meet Indian Jews, their responses were the same: “Jews… in India?!” I had the same reaction as well, which was why I knew I had to travel there and meet them myself.

The Bene Israel (“Children of Israel”) Jews, the largest of the three groups of Jewish people living in India, are believed to be one of the lost ten tribes of Israel who fled from the land of Israel around 175 BCE. It is said that they are survived from seven men and seven women whose ship crashed off the coast of Mumbai in the 4th century, ending up in surrounding villages. They’ve lived in Mumbai since the mid-18th century. Today there are 4,000 Jews in India, most of them Bene Israel in Mumbai.

The culture of the Bene Israel Jews is a harmonious blend of regional Indian customs, such as speaking Marathi and eating local foods, with the familiar Jewish traditions of keeping kosher, observing the Sabbath, and circumcision.

We visited synagogues dating back to the mid-19th century that are still in use today. These grand, ornate structures are protected by security guards 24/7 due to regulations by the Indian government, for which there is no great demand: India has virtually no anti-Semitism.

Still, I felt grateful for the ability to observe Shabbat safely in a foreign country. Attending a service at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, one of the nine synagogues in Mumbai, was an experience I will never forget. I was in awe not only of the interior painted sky blue with gold trim and the long Victorian stained glass windows, but of the collective Jewish community I saw before me. It didn’t matter if you were a tourist who traveled from miles away, or one of the locals who was keeping his or her community alive: you were welcome with open arms to pray there.

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On the Sabbath, we learned about special traditions of the community, such as reciting Kiddush with a banana and a date to symbolize plants and fruits. Another ritual that stood out was that while many of us are accustomed to covering our eyes when we recite the b’racha after lighting the Shabbat candles, the Indian locals in our group brought their hands to their lips to give them a kiss, while their eyes focused on the flames before them.

They also have a particular way of blessing someone on Shabbat, a greeting I found most endearing. You place your hands over someone else’s, look the other person in the eyes, wish them a Shabbat Shalom, and then bring your hands to your lips to kiss them, all while maintaining eye contact with the person before you. Partaking in this intimate tradition made me feel incredibly close and connected to people I had only just met.

The Bene Israelis also drink whiskey instead of wine during their Shabbat dinners and lunches, which is another tradition I can get behind!

A glimpse into Jewish India wouldn’t be complete without a visit to India’s only JCC, the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Centre, founded by JDC. Here we learned about the Jewish educational programming they offer, as well as some Bollywood dance moves! The community graciously fed us a dinner of chapati (unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour), lentils, paneer, bread rolls, and gulab jamun, a popular dessert consisting of fried dough balls soaked in cardamom syrup.

Engaging with fellow Jews from another part of the world is an enlightening and eye-opening experience. It is a reminder of how far our people have come, and where we continue to thrive, no matter the size of our communities.

Another important aspect of the trip was the emphasis of Jewish global responsibility. We saw this through Gabriel Project Mumbai, an NGO started by a Jewish man by the name of Jacob Sztokman, which works to improve healthcare, education, and nutrition in the slums and rural villages.

We had the opportunity to teach and play with the children in their classrooms, as well as learn about the many services GPM offers in the slums, including a new medical center, a water filtration system, and soap and paper recycling.

JDC did an excellent job of bridging the gap and bringing two sides of the world together through shared Jewish ancestry. We not only filled our bellies with biryani and made friends for life, but also saw examples of how to make a lasting impact in the world around us.

On the rooftop of our hotel on Friday evening, surrounded by palm trees and the warm glow of sunset, we lit candles and sang “Kol Ha’Olam Kulo” collectively, first in Hebrew and then in Hindi. During the song, we noticed an older couple approach our table of Shabbat candles. The man wore a Kippah, and both he and the woman wore grins on their faces.

Together they lit candles, and when our song came to an end, the man said to us, “We thought we were alone.”

Someone from our group responded to him: “You’re never alone”.

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mirandaAbout the Author: Miranda Lapides is the deputy director of communications for the pro-Israel think tank The Endowment for Middle East Truth. Miranda graduated from George Mason University in 2015 with a B.A. in psychology. Her claim to fame is being named GatherDC’s Jewish Instagrammer of the Week. You can find her serving up lattes at Coffy Cafe in Columbia Heights on the weekends, and trying new food around the city.

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Falafeltaschen Recipe

With Purim gone and Passover coming up, I decided to make a savory Purim treat that will both be delicious and help me use up the puff pastry dough in my freezer before Passover.

Falafeltaschen

Ingredients

  • Puff Pastry
  • Falafel
  • Egg
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Choice of toppings (hummus, tzatziki, etc.,)

Enter the Falafeltaschen

  • The first step is frying the falafel balls in oil on the stove as you would usually.  I used the Osem Falafel Mix for mine, but you’re welcome to use a different mix or even make your own from scratch.  While you’re doing this, I recommend defrosting the puff pastry dough sheets as they need to be quite defrosted to do the folding.
  • Once the falafel balls are fried, preheat the oven to the puff pastry’s required oven time and start folding!  I found it easiest to put the falafel ball in the middle first and fold from the back, forming the long end of the triangle first before pressing the front point together and rounding out the sides so it forms a familiar hamantaschen-like shape.  After you do this and line all of your falafeltaschen up on the oven tray, crack the egg in a bowl and brush the egg wash on the surface of the puff pastry – followed up a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.
  • After this, place your falafeltaschen in the oven for 15 or so minutes, until the puff pastry has properly browned.  Once you pull them out, be sure to let them cool before adding your desired toppings as you don’t want your toppings drying out.  I had used Sabra brand Olive Tapenade hummus, but you’re welcome to be creative here – Israeli salad, different hummus, tahini, skhug, and tzatziki are all great choices for them.

A special thanks to Aimee from JSwipe.  Without your baking expertise, this couldn’t have worked out like it did.

 

 

brett borenAbout the Author:  Brett Boren is a Conservative Jewish guy who loves his mother’s challah, but could do without her latkes.  Originally from Miami, he appreciates arroz con pollo as much as double-chocolate babka, though preferably not together.  When he’s not experimenting in the kitchen, he can be found with his cat, Youpi, or sampling shawarma at Max’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.